A pho­tog­ra­ph­er who has nev­er shot in a stu­dio is faced with a huge amount of infor­ma­tion and chal­lenges: attach­ments, fil­ters, the right inter­ac­tion with space, mod­el and light, cam­era set­tings and source pow­er.

We con­tin­ue to make life eas­i­er for novice pho­tog­ra­phers dur­ing stu­dio shoot­ing and tell in sim­ple terms how pulsed and con­stant light dif­fer and in which case each of them can be use­ful.


What is pulsed light

A flash light is a light that gives off a short, bright flash. It just won’t work like that — a syn­chro­niz­er is need­ed that tells the light­ing device when to work.

The syn­chro­niz­er reads infor­ma­tion from the cam­era when you press the shut­ter but­ton and instant­ly trans­mits it to light sources so that they give an impulse. The stu­dios give out a syn­chro­niz­er when your shoot­ing time begins, so there is no need to buy it addi­tion­al­ly for stu­dio shoot­ing.

Exter­nal flash­es worn on the cam­era are also referred to as flash lights. Paired with a syn­chro­niz­er, they can be used sep­a­rate­ly from the cam­era, mount­ed on a stand or mount­ed on a stand / pixabay.com

Pulse light fea­tures:

  • as a rule, the pow­er is high­er than that of a con­stant;
  • more con­trast images;
  • freezes the move­ment, so the prob­a­bil­i­ty of get­ting a blur­ry frame is very small;
  • you don’t see the result, so tri­al shots are need­ed to get it right.

This prob­lem is solved by a pilot light built into the source — a con­stant light that gives an idea of ​​​​how chiaroscuro will fall. But note that not all flash­lights have this fea­ture. In addi­tion, the pilot light can be quite weak, being lost against the back­ground of oth­er light sources. But, if you shoot in the dark, it is nec­es­sary — oth­er­wise the cam­era will not focus on the object.

— a sharp pic­ture, regard­less of the lumi­nos­i­ty of the optics and the class of the cam­era;
— if you are think­ing about buy­ing light for your­self, then pulsed is cheap­er and more pow­er­ful than con­stant. For exam­ple, a kit that includes sev­er­al sources can be found in the range from 12 to 82 thou­sand rubles. The high­er the price, the high­er the pow­er. The light comes imme­di­ate­ly with racks and attach­ments — umbrel­las or soft­box­es. For a home mini-stu­dio, it remains to buy only back­grounds. For exam­ple, a white fab­ric back­ground with a stand and black to it. Both back­grounds can be paint­ed in any col­or using col­or fil­ters;
— a short flash blinds the mod­el for a moment, and does not shine in the eyes all the time;
— oth­er light sources, as a rule, do not inter­rupt the pulse pow­er.

You can shoot with over­head lights on, win­dows open, and it won’t be affect­ed. But, if it’s not about the bright sun beat­ing through the win­dow / Pho­to: Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa

Pulsed light is more com­mon than con­stant light. Some pho­to stu­dios, when rent­ing a hall, pro­vide pulsed light for free, and con­stant light for an addi­tion­al fee. So be sure to check if this stu­dio has a per­ma­nent light and, if so, how much it costs to rent.

What is constant light

Con­stant light (some­times called movie light) is light that does not change. It does not require syn­chro­niz­ers. It can be pro­vid­ed not only by pro­fes­sion­al equip­ment, but also by any lamps, lights, gar­lands, signs in the stu­dio. If you illu­mi­nate the mod­el’s face with a mobile phone, this is also a con­stant light. As a rule, in pho­to stu­dios, the pow­er of such light is less than pulsed, due to its high cost.


Per­ma­nent Light Fea­tures:

  • the black and white pat­tern is imme­di­ate­ly vis­i­ble. This is a good tip for a begin­ner who can cor­rect the result of the final pic­ture before press­ing the shut­ter but­ton.
  • any extra light source can spoil or change the look of the pic­ture.

You need to care­ful­ly con­trol every­thing that hap­pens in the stu­dio. Open win­dows, over­head lights on, an open door with bright lamps in the next room — absolute­ly every­thing affects.

  • high­er prob­a­bil­i­ty of blur and defo­cus;
  • you need a faster aper­ture tech­nique than when shoot­ing with pulsed light;
  • allows you to simul­ta­ne­ous­ly shoot high-qual­i­ty, atmos­pher­ic back­ings;
  • suit­able for video shoot­ing;
  • you can put any shut­ter speed;
  • if you shoot with a hard light direct­ed at the front of the face, it can strong­ly daz­zle the mod­el;
  • you need to shoot at high­er ISO val­ues, con­trol aper­ture and shut­ter speed to avoid blur­ry images.

Universal lighting schemes for the beginner

How to take a low key portrait

Low key is a dark pho­to with high con­trast and spot­lights. Pic­tures tak­en this way are deep, dark and dra­mat­ic.

We will need:

  • Black back­ground;
  • one light source on the side;
  • a mod­el stand­ing at a suf­fi­cient dis­tance from the back­ground so that the light does not reach it.
Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Lentchevicha, Photostore.Expert

Exper­i­ment with dif­fer­ent posi­tions of the light and its pow­er. Be pre­pared that the first time you press the but­ton on your cam­era, you may not get the per­fect pic­ture.

How to take a high key portrait

High key is unnat­u­ral­ly bright light­ing, light shad­ows and, as a result, soft, reduced con­trast. Suit­able for shoot­ing chil­dren, del­i­cate por­traits.

We will need:

  • White back­ground;
  • four light sources. Because of this, it is prob­lem­at­ic to sim­u­late such an effect at home, it is eas­i­er to rent a stu­dio;
  • a mod­el stand­ing at a suf­fi­cient dis­tance from the back­ground so that the shad­ow of a per­son does not fall on the back­ground.
Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Lentchevicha, Photostore.Expert

For a high key, the back­ground will have to be high­light­ed. More­over, the pow­er of these sources should be high­er than those direct­ed to the mod­el. This is nec­es­sary for a per­fect­ly white back­ground with­out shad­ows and cre­at­ing the effect of an “over­ex­posed” image.

How to make a classic portrait with Rembrandt light

The pecu­liar­i­ty of Rem­brand light in chiaroscuro, which is obtained on a per­son. Its main “mark­er” is the less illu­mi­nat­ed half of the face with a bare­ly dis­tin­guish­able light spot in the form of a tri­an­gle in the area under the eye, as well as high con­trast.

We will need:

  • a light source with a reflec­tor to make the light hard;
  • a reflec­tor placed at a 45-degree angle to the flash to slight­ly illu­mi­nate half of the face that would be in shad­ow;
  • a mod­el stand­ing at a suf­fi­cient dis­tance from the back­ground to make it mod­er­ate­ly dark.
Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Lentchevicha, Photostore.Expert

How to make an Esquire-style portrait

The pecu­liar­i­ty of the por­traits made for this mag­a­zine is in hard light, a spot of light at the lev­el of the head of the mod­el in the back­ground, vignette along the edges and cold ton­ing.

We will need:

  • white or gray back­ground;
  • a beau­ty dish or a small soft­box so that the shad­ows are hard enough;
  • a light source with a tube attach­ment, which will cre­ate a spot of light behind a per­son;
  • mod­el at a dis­tance of 2–3 meters from the back­ground.
Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Lentchevicha, Photostore.Expert

When is the best light to use?

If we talk about the result, the use of pulsed or con­stant light does not dif­fer much from each oth­er. The light and shad­ow pat­tern, the hard­ness or soft­ness of the light deter­mine the noz­zles, pow­er, loca­tion and dis­tance between the source and the mod­el. When choos­ing between types of light, it is more impor­tant which one you and the mod­el are com­fort­able work­ing with. But there are nuances.

Pho­to using con­stant light sources / Pho­to: Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa
  • For busi­ness, beau­ty or fash­ion shoots, pulsed light is tra­di­tion­al­ly used.
  • If you need to freeze motion — shoot­ing rest­less chil­dren, dancers in motion — use momen­tum.
  • Con­stant light opens up space for bold cre­ative exper­i­ments. For exam­ple, if you want to try your­self in abstract sur­re­al scenes, where defo­cus and blur are not impor­tant (and even wel­come, to be part of the idea!)
  • If you plan to shoot video at the same time, use con­stant light, since the record­ing will flick­er with a pulse.
  • There are mod­els with eyes that are sen­si­tive to bright flash­es. In such peo­ple, whites may turn red, they begin to cry and blink rapid­ly. In this case, try switch­ing to con­stant light.
  • If you need a fin­er adjust­ment of pow­er, for exam­ple, to give a sub­tle accent, the con­stant light will allow you to fine-tune your­self.